La Grande Illusion

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La Grande Illusion (1937)

Directed by Jean Renoir

Starring: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim

When Lieutenant Maréchal (Gabin) and Captain Boeldieu (Fresnay) are shot down during World War I they’re quickly captured and sent to a German P.O.W. camp. After repeated escape attempts fail, the pair find themselves in a camp run by Captain von Rauffenstein (von Stroheim), a career soldier and a gentleman. Captain Boeldieu and Captain von Rauffenstein knew one another in more peaceful times. Now they’re bonding over old times while the rest of the captives continue to seek for a way out. Eventually their friendship could be tested by the sense of duty the two men share.

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This is an incredible movie from a unique period of French film making. Director Jean Renoir used his unique vision to create a wonderful film. The story was written through the  combined effort of Renoir and Charles Spaak. Together they created a script filled with great dialogue and unique moments.Their cast is filled with talented actors including Jean Gabin (Port of Shadows), Dita Parlo (Under Secret Orders), Pierre Fresnay (Dieu a besoin des hommes), and Erich von Stroheim (Sunset Blvd.).

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The acting in this movie is really nicely done from all of the stars. Despite focusing on the main characters, the movie introduces a number of likeable people along the way. This really keeps the story interesting and kept me invested in the lives of all the people involved.

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The movie also takes advantage of nicely built sets and natural landscape to bring the story to life. Despite being a black and white movie Renoir is able to make the world seem almost colorful. The camera work and lighting are wonderful and help to give a texture and a depth to the movie that bring it to a higher level.

This is a powerful movie with an incredible story. Renoir does an awesome job with all aspects of the film. If you’re a fan of foreign films this is a must-see. I’d also recommend this to anyone who likes films like The Great Escape. I give this one 5 our of 5 stars.

Rating: Not Rated

Running Time: 114  minutes

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